The spiritual leader of the Ezidis pays a 3-day visit to the district of Shingal, hometown of the Ezidis, on Friday for the 1st time since his appointment last November, which divided the Eizid community into supporters and opponents.
The trip scheduled in Last November was delayed several times as people of Shingal have rejected to welcome a leader appointed by the majority not unanimously.
Sabah Samir, the media manager of baba Sheikh's office said "Baba Sheikh was warmly welcomed in his frist trip wich aims at uniting the Ezidis, sort out social disputed and meet the key social and religious figures."
Ali Ilyas was nominated as Baba Sheikh in a ritual on November 18th, 2020 in Lalish holy temple of the Ezidis in the district of Sheikhan, Duhok province.
A number of Ezidi tribes, clerics and community leaders reject the mechanism of appointing Baba Sheikh "for interference by political parties and disregard for their concerns."
Ezidis are an ethno-religious minority over half a million population, mostly residing in Shingal, in northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, and Shekhan districts, . The militants of Daesh extremist group in 2014 attacked their communities accusing them of being heretics, killing thousands of men and taking thousands of women and children as sex slaves, in an atrocity the U.N. described as genocide.
The Ezidi administration institution is made up of the Ezidi Spiritual Council, prince of Ezidis (Mir) who is the head of the spiritual council (leader of the community), Baba-Sheikh (the key religious figure), Minister Sheikh, and head of the seniors. They unanimously form the council and take the decisions.
Farhan Ibrahim, an Ezidi civic activist and head of a local NGO whom disagreed about nomination of new Baba Sheikh following the death of his ancestor, is still doubtful of the purpose of the trip.
"People are afraid the reason is political and for electoral campaign so we doubt any income especially in sorting out admin and political problems which are not religious or social. We believe he made the trip under political pressure."
People are afraid the reason is political and for electoral campaign
All political parties in Iraq are launching electoral campaign for upcoming October 10th parliamentary elections.
Ibrahim is skeptical Baba Sheikh to unify the Ezidis "whom are divided between several political parties and some are independent so how he can meet with all and unite them?"
"Based on the philosophy of Ezidi religion, clergies are not involved into politics."
Ezidism is an old Middle Eastern monotheistic ethnic religion and is based on belief in one God who created the world and entrusted it into the care of seven Holy Beings, known as Angels. The ouststanding among these angels is Melek Taus who is the leader and has authority over the world.
Ezidis speak Kurmanji, one of the two main Kurdish dialects. The majority of Ezidis consider Ezidism both a distinct ethnic and cultural identity and do not identify as Kurdish.
Baba Sheikh's office rejected any political agenda. "We are preparing for this trip since a long time ago. The Baba Sheikh is not holding any political banner or slogan and has nothing to do with electoral campaign," his media manager said.
"Those who say Baba Sheikh is here for election campaign are wrong and it is a big accusation to him."
Others believe the trip might bring peace and stability.
Hasso Ibrahim, deputy director of Shingal semiautonomous council, close to Kurdistan Workers' party PKK, said he was not informed of the trip and describes it as a positive institutive in case it has nothing to do with elections.
Ibrahim, one of opponents of appointment of the spiritual leader, said "it is a good step and Ezidis will be pleased unless he made it under political pressure."
it is a good step and Ezidis will be pleased unless he made it under political pressure
Following appointment of Baba Sheikh, number of Shingal community leaders Early December have formed a new 'Ezidi Assembly' whose members were elected by the residents of the district, with the aim of conveying demands of residents and to monitor local governance.
The formation of the new assembly was announced on Tuesday (1 December, 2020) at the Sharafadin Shrine. Tribal leaders, clerics, and political and security figures took part in the meeting, including those who objected to the manner of the appointment of the new Ezidi spiritual leader (Baba Sheikh) and the Mir (prince) of the Ezidis.
The trip comes amid turbulent conditions as still majority of the Ezidis are still living under tents in the camps for Internally Displaced People IDP in Duhok Northern province of the adjacent Kurdistan region.
Following ISIS takeover of Shingal and large swathes of Iraq from 2014 and 2017, Ezidis left homes toward Shingal Mountain and Kurdistan region. Part have returned to the war-torn Shingal which misses basic public services making it harder for the rest to rerun home.
The figures by Kurdistan Regional Government KRG show that 30% of the 664,000 IDPs in Kurdistan region camps are from the Ezidi community.
The trip is positive for Ezidis and the region toward collective efforts
Khudeda Hassan, mayor of Gir Uzer sub-district of Shingal said the reason behind the trip is "to bring the Ezidis close to each other and refrain from tribal and political feuds in order to focus on return of the IDPs and reconstruction of what Daesh demolished."
"The trip is positive for Ezidis and the region toward collective efforts."
Shingal, located 120 west of Mosul, center of Nineveh province, on the border of Iraq-Syria, is hundreds of years-old home to the Ezidi religious community.